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Iran sentences US veteran to 10 years in prison

US man was arrested in July in Iranian city of Mashhad while visiting girlfriend he reportedly met online
Arrest has further strained difficult relations between Trump administration and Iran (AFP/file photo)

An Iranian court has sentenced an American to 10 years in prison for insulting the country's supreme leader and posting a private picture in public, his lawyer confirmed on Saturday.

Michael White, 46, a 13-year US Navy veteran, was arrested in July in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad while visiting a girlfriend he reportedly met online, AFP said.

His lawyer, Mark Zaid, confirmed that White was sentenced to two years for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and 10 years for posting the picture, apparently to be served concurrently.

The basis for the first charge is not yet clear. The second charge appears to have been levelled after White uploaded a picture of himself sitting with the woman, an Iranian national, Zaid was cited by Reuters as saying.

Iranian authorities have not released details of the charges.

The family and the US State Department are still trying to determine whether the charges are politically motivated or the result of a criminal prosecution, Zaid said. "It's been very unclear," he said.

The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday, Reuters said.

"We remain very concerned about his health as he has pre-existing medical conditions, but we've been informed he appears to be in a good state at the moment," Zaid said.

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The New York Times, which first reported the sentencing, said White had two court hearings, on 6 March and 9 March.

The State Department was informed of the sentencing by Swiss diplomats who represent US interests in Iran, according to Zaid.

White was the first American to be detained in Iran since Donald Trump became president of the United States.

Three other Americans imprisoned in Iran - Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi and Xiyue Wang - have been accused of spying and sedition. A fourth, Robert Levinson, has been missing in Iran since 2007.

White's arrest has further strained the difficult relationship between the Trump administration and Iran, which worsened after Trump withdrew from an international agreement curbing Iran's nuclear programme and re-imposed sanctions.

Since January, when Iran first confirmed White's arrest, he has not been permitted to contact his family, Zaid said.